6 Steps India Can Take to Help Rape Victims

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The outcry over the brutal gang rape of a young woman in New Delhi last month has not only brought into focus the issue of violence against women in India but has also shone a light on the way the country's criminal justice system frequently fails rape victims. There were 24,206 rapes reported in 2011 by the National Crime Records Bureau, equivalent to one rape every 20 minutes. While many Indians are calling for changes in the law such as capital punishment for rapists and new legislation to protect women, many civil rights' lawyers disagree. They say India has good gender laws already, but they need to be strengthened and enforced. The following is a list of six steps India can take to ensure rape victims receive adequate care and support and that swift justice is delivered, compiled from interviews with police, lawyers and human rights activists. 1. GENDER SENSITISATION & MORE FEMALE POLICE

Like most large organisations in the country, India's police force is male-dominated - only 6.5 percent of officers are women. Deep-rooted patriarchal beliefs mean the police force, like many other institutions such as government bodies or parliament, is often seen as insensitive to the issues faced by women. Gender sensitisation training as well as increasing the number of female police officers in India will help change attitudes within the police force, activists and lawyers say. This would also help ensure victims' complaints are treated seriously and sympathetically. 2. MORE POLICE ACCOUNTABILITY

There have been numerous cases of girls and women being turned away by the police when they try to report a rape - officers do not take the crime seriously or they blame the victim. In many instances, the largely underpaid, overworked police officers have little interest in registering or investigating a gender crime that can take years to reach judgment. Sometimes, if the accused is powerful or wealthy, police can be influenced into taking no action. Activists say current...
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